Home Fitness & Exercise Specialized Ambush ANGi helmet – Review

Specialized Ambush ANGi helmet – Review

A black Specialized Ambush helmet

Why would you pay almost R4 000 for a mountain bike helmet? Lance Branquinho did just that, acquiring the Specialized Ambush helmet. Included in the price, is Specialized’s ANGi crash sensor that sends a distress signal if the rider is knocked unconscious.

Mountain bike helmets do strange things to your hair and function mainly as a fashion accessory – until you get it wrong on the trail. In that moment between balanced descent and crash impact, you don’t have much time to ponder whether you bought the best possible helmet. With a Specialized Ambush, there’s not much margin for doubt.

But R3 800 is a lot of money for a half shell mountain bike helmet. Is the Specialized Ambush worth it?

Key product features

  • Construction: Aramid-reinforced EPS liner
  • Sizes: XS/S, M/L, XL/XXL
  • Weight: 325 grams
  • Adjustment system: Integrated turn dial
  • Ventilation ports: 20
  • Crash detection: Angular and G-force indicator (ANGi)
Rear of Specialized Ambush MTB helmet

Reasons for buying the Specialized Ambush helmet

If you ride technical singletrack mountain bike trails, the risk of a crash is real. Rugby and combat sports are in a concussion crisis, but mountain biking holds an even greater risk for soft-tissue brain injuries. So, I decided to upgrade to a better helmet for trail riding. My choice fell on Specialized since it has an extensive South African store network. You can check countrywide stock levels online, to avoid visiting a store and not finding the helmet you want, in the colour or size you need.

Specialized prides itself on vertically integrated research, development and engineering. That’s MBA jargon for the fact that they like doing things themselves, innovating instead of copying. The American cycling brand makes everything from trick aero road bikes to gloves.

The ANGi crash sensor for the Specialized Ambush MTB helmet

Setting up

The Specialized Ambush helmet comes ready to go, with the only bit you need to add being that ANGi crash sensor. And it simply attaches to the lower rear edge of the helmet.

The ANGi crash sensor connects to your phone, via Specialized’s Ride App for iOS or Android. It serves as an emergency call for help if you are knocked unconscious and can’t signal that you are injured.

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Angi has your back

An accelerometer inside the ANGi sensor knows when you have crashed and starts a countdown. If you crash and don’t disable it, ANGi goes into emergency signalling mode, via the data connection on your Smartphone. This helps a preselected emergency contact know where you crashed, by pinging a location.

Finding the ideal fit is easy. Specialized’s Ambush helmet uses the brand’s Mindset 360 adjustable retention system, which allows generous tension adjustment.

The Specialized Ambush MTB helmet perched on a bush.

Using the Specialized Ambush helmet

Any mountain bike helmet is a compromised fit. Riders have different head shapes and there is no universal design that is equally comfy. But for my head shape, the Ambush has proven ideal.

It provides a snug and confident fit, without creating pressure points during a ride, or running too hot.

What we like about the Specialized Ambush helmet

With most mountain bikers benefitting from advances in tyre and suspension design, average riders are pushing into advanced trails, with greater frequency. And that means an increased crash risk. So how does the Specialized Ambush help to reduce brain injury risk? With the clever Multi-directional Impact Protection System (MIPS) liner, a Swedish innovation that acts as a slip plane when you crash, dispersing energy.

Almost all mountain bike helmets feature the same EPS (expanded polystyrene) shell. There’s not much difference in helmet construction between brands. But the helmet’s inner liner makes a huge difference to riding comfort and safety. And with the Ambush’s MIPS, you are covered.

Air-cooled comfort

South African mountain bikers benefit from a mild winter, which means very warm summer riding days. And any helmet with poor ventilation is agony to mountain bike with when temperatures go beyond 30-degrees Celsius.

The Specialized Ambush has 20 vents and works a treat to optimise airflow. Despite all the comfort padding and MIPS liner inside, industrial designers at Specialized have managed to package the Ambush’s helmet inner features, without constraining its ventilation.

Inside the Specialized Ambush MTB helmet

Where Specialized can improve

The Ambush portfolio is a bit tame if you like your helmets in bold colours. But that’s merely a cosmetic thing.

The ANGi sensor technology is a brilliant safety feature, but like most things digital, it runs on a battery. Specialized claims six months of use from a 2032 coin cell battery, but you best be proactive monitoring that. There’s nothing worse than having ANGi depower due to a spent battery, when you need it after a serious fall.

The Specialized Ambush MTB helmet on its side on a dirt road

Conclusion and score

Helmets are a deeply personal bits of mountain biking kit. What is comfortable to one rider, might be annoyingly uncomfortable for another.

From my experience and conversations with other riders, Specialized’s Ambush provides a near-perfect fit for many.

But what makes the Ambush so compelling is its digital safety feature. With the ANGi sensor fitted, you can ride solo with greater confidence. Knowing that help will be summoned even when you can’t.

The Specialized Ambush with ANGi sensor rates 4 out of 5.

4.0 out of 5.0 stars

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